GOD’S IDEA OF GREATNESS
….he shut up John in prison. – Mt. 4:12; Mk. 1:14, 17-18; Lk. 3:19-20; Jn. 4:1-3
John spent 30 years preparing for a six month ministry, followed by one and a half years in prison before he was beheaded. Many people would not consider his life very successful, yet Jesus said John was the greatest man who was ever born (Mt. 11:11).
John’s greatness didn’t lie in his own success, but in the success of another. John stirred up the hearts of an entire nation in expectancy of their Messiah. The ministry of Jesus owed much of its success to the work of John. John had prepared a people to meet their God (Mal. 3:1).
In our celebrity conscious society, few people want to be the backup singer or the announcer who introduces the main speaker. We have adopted a mentality that unless we are in the limelight we have failed. That’s not the way the Lord looks at things.
When the Lord passes out rewards in heaven, we may be shocked to see how He evaluates greatness. Many people who did not receive recognition while on earth will shine like the stars in eternity. The Lord will judge our works on what sort they were and not what size they were (I Cor. 3:13).
BELIEVE AND ACT ON THE NEW COVENANT …
1 Samuel 17:45 – Then David said to the Philistine, “… I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
Ever wonder why two people can hear the same thing and yet have very different responses? For one, what is said makes him afraid and discouraged. For the other, his heart is so filled with faith that he dares to come against the devil and what he is doing.
In the Valley of Elah, Goliath the Philistine giant taunted the armies of Israel for 40 days. When David came on the scene, he heard the same mockings of Goliath that the rest of the Israelites heard. But somehow, those same words which caused fear in the soldiers angered David. What did David know or see that the others failed to see?
David knew that he had a covenant with God. Now, King Saul and all the soldiers with him that day also had the same covenant with God, but only David believed the covenant. And he acted on his belief. So God caused his giant to come tumbling down.
If David had such a great victory even though he was under the old covenant, how much more you and I who are under the new covenant! Today, God is asking, “Where are my Davids who will believe the new covenant?”
What is the new covenant? It is the covenant of grace. And grace means unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor. God wants us to know that He has cut this covenant with us through Christ our representative. And according to the covenant, we have His undeserved favor. We are blessed because Jesus took our beating. Because of what Jesus has done on the cross, we have victory over every giant.
Isn’t that good news? Today, God wants you to stand before your “giant” and declare that in spite of what you are going through, in spite of what is happening, you believe that God is for you because of what Jesus has done for you. And then, before your very eyes, you will see the giants of accusation, intimidation, condemnation, disease and debt fall flat before you!
By You I have been upheld from birth . . . . My praise shall be continually of You. —Psalm 71:6
I used to love birthdays. I can still remember standing excitedly on our front porch waiting for my friends to show up for my 5th birthday party. I wasn’t just excited about the balloons, the gifts, and the cake. I was happy that I was no longer only 4! I was growing up.
As I’ve gotten older, however, birthdays have sometimes been more discouraging than exciting. Last year when I celebrated a birthday that marked me by decades more than by years, my wife, Martie, cheered me up with the reminder that I should be grateful to be growing older. She pointed me to Psalm 71, where the psalmist talks about God’s presence throughout his life. He remembers that God “took me out of my mother’s womb” (71:6), and he proclaims with thankfulness, “O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works” (v.17). And now, when the psalmist is older, he has the honor to proclaim: “[God’s] strength to this generation, [His] power to everyone who is to come” (v.18). God had blessed the psalmist with His presence through every year of his life.
Birthdays now remind me of God’s faithfulness. And they bring me closer to being in the presence of the One who has been with me all these years!
Lord, remind me often that growing older means I am growing nearer to You! Keep my heart filled with gratitude for Your many blessings, and keep my mind fixed on the joy of heaven.
Count your many blessings—birthday by birthday!
LAUGH A LITTLE
A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. – Proverbs 17:22, NLT
God has given you a great prescription for living a long, healthy, and happy life: Laugh, and laugh a lot! The “medicine” of laughter is within everyone, but you may need to start taking it. Recent studies have shown that laughter boosts the body’s immune system, reduces stress, reduces the risk of heart attack, and even acts as a natural tranquilizer. Those are health benefits everyone needs. That’s why it’s tragic to go through life with a stone face. The enemy has convinced too many into thinking that they need to be somber and serious in order to be a Christian. But don’t fall for that trick. God wants you to laugh and live well!
DON’T FOLLOW FICKLE FEELINGS; FOLLOW GOD…
Webster’s Dictionary defines “fickle” as “Not fixed or firm; liable to change; unstable.” Your emotions and how you feel are unstable and liable to change. So, if you follow your feelings, then your life, your choices, and your actions will sway like a tree in strong wind.
Because your feelings can be unstable, it is important not to follow them exclusively. For example, there will probably be some days when you don’t feel like being nice to your spouse. If you follow your feelings and act impulsively, then your marriage will have problems. Because feelings are unstable and unpredictable, someone who lives based on their feelings will also be unstable and unpredictable.
Indeed, James 1:8 says that someone who follows his feelings “is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
Instead of following our feelings, we need to follow God, for He is the only source of true stability. We need to take the same attitude as an old hymn, which says, “On Christ the solid Rock I stand, All other ground is sinking sand.”
In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
That “rock” is God’s Word. If we want to live solid, stable lives, they must be built on the rock—God, himself. Therefore, don’t follow fickle feelings; follow God.
IF YOU WANT TRUE LIFE, YOU MUST HAVE THE WORD OF LIFE …
To many people, physical life is deemed to be the measure of whether or not one has life. However, true life—spiritual life—requires more than a beating heart. That’s because we are spiritually hungry and thirsty people constantly looking for answers to life’s persistent problems. Often, we look to idols like education, money, and success for those answers. However, real solutions for real life come only from the Author of Life—God, himself.
True life—the type so many people hunger and thirst for—can only be found in Christ. In John 6:35, Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” Obviously, Jesus isn’t talking about physical hunger; instead, He is talking about spiritual hunger.
Not only will Jesus satisfy your spiritual hunger, but He will also quench your spiritual thirst: “To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life” (Revelation 21:6).
That verse refers back to Isaiah 55:1-2, where God says, “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.”
Therefore, stop trying to seek worldly things for satisfaction, because worldly pleasures are temporary. Instead, heed the advice of Isaiah 55:6: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”
God is the source of all life, and if you want true life, you must have God’s Word of Life.
SEEK TO BE CHRIST-LIKE …
Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps. – 1 Peter 2:21 NIV
At creation God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image and likeness…’ (Genesis 1:26 NCV) Clearly God’s intention for each of us has always been to reflect His nature, His character, His purposes, His thoughts, and His ways. And if you want to know what that looks like, examine the life of Christ. Paul said, ‘Now He [Jesus] is the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]; He is the Firstborn of all creation.’ (Colossians 1:15 AMP) So your greatest goal, especially if you want to be used by God, must be Christ–like–ness. That means you should endeavour to handle situations as He did, and treat people the way He would. Peter writes, ‘For even to this were you called [it is inseparable from your vocation]…Christ…suffered for you, leaving you [His personal] example…that you should follow in His footsteps.’ (1 Peter 2:21 AMP) Jesus is your example when it comes to these three things:
(1) Suffering. When He was mistreated, instead of retaliating He responded with love, patience, and kindness.
(2) Serving. He stooped to wash the feet of His disciples, then told them to follow His example because even the lowest menial should not be beneath them (John 13:15–17).
(3) Submitting. He said, ‘…I carry out the will of the One who sent me, not My own will.’ (John 5:30 NLT) And here’s the good news: God will keep working on you—indeed; He’s committed to it—to bring you to the place where in every circumstance of life, you act the same way as Jesus.
HEAVEN HEARS, HELL OBEYS!
I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. – Psalm 119:15
The Bible records for us that Joshua, in the sight of the Israelites, said, “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And miraculously, “the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies” (Joshua 10:12–13).
What awesome authority and power in the mouth of a man! The Bible adds that “there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:14).
Now, why did Joshua’s words carry so much authority and why did the Lord heed his voice? I believe that it had something to do with the fact that Joshua meditated on the Scriptures day and night as instructed by the Lord right at the start of his leadership (Joshua 1:8).
My friend, power in your mouth or words comes not by you raising your fist or voice, but by you meditating regularly on God’s Word. For example, when you meditate often on God’s promises regarding healing, faith comes alive in your heart, and that sickness or disease will have to leave when you say, “Get out!”
The more you meditate on the Lord’s grace and His promises, the more they’ll become real to you until faith is effortless. Then, like Joshua, when you speak, heaven hears and hell obeys!
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